I spent less than a half day at NAMM this year. I wasn’t going to go at all as I took a new job in a startup company which is requiring a lot of time. However, I had multiple meetings in the area around the same time so I carved out a few hours to go on the weekend.
I’m really glad I went.
OK, I guess this is kind of obvious. You could be standing next to Elvis because everyone is there, checking out tons of gear, nerding out on all things drumming, and, as the Burger Meister would say, there’s noise, noise, noise!! What’s not to like? But, I really didn’t think I would provide much value this year at NAMM (spoiler alert – I didn’t), so there didn’t seem much reason to go other than it would be fun, but I don’t have that kind of time usually.
I absolutely wanted to be there last year as it was the first time Noble and Cooley had been in five years, we had a new booth, new product lines and there was a lot of question in the industry as to whether we really were making a comeback or we were just promising a lot of vapor and would not be delivering on anything. A lot of the promises we made, I made personally, to dealers, industry publications, potential clients and our long time artists, so I wanted to be there. But that fact of the matter is, when I went, very few people knew who I was and were just ecstatic to see that Noble and Cooley was back at NAMM, had cool new stuff and looked like they were trying to make a go at it. It was like old home week for the Jones family and reconnection for James Wyrick along with a whole lot of “I love your drums” to “You guys are legendary but I have never tried your drums, these are amazing” to “Man, those drums sound amazing. Who are you? Are you a new company?” I found this last one amusing.
So, in the end, it was really good. It was good for the Jones family to see their value and that people appreciate them. Jay got some much deserved respect, Nick and James and I had fun and Carol survived and almost broke a smile at the amount of business we did.
So, cut to this year. I was like, OK people know we are back and get better with each month. All of the new drums we brought out were universally praised, business is up, there was no fire drill (OK, compared to last year) to get ready for the show, we pre-sold a bunch of stuff, everyone is on the same page and up to speed on everything. Everyone else did all the work and brought all the value. The whole team scrambled to make sure we could deliver on the epic new solid shell kits. No need to have the could-have-been-a-contender medical device guy at the show. And while that turned out to be correct, there ended up being an unexpected reason to go which made it worthwhile and reminded me of why I like being involved in this industry.
That reason was the number of people from all areas who came up to us to say how happy they were to see us active again and bringing out new gear. Last year, people were just surprised to see us. This year we have demonstrated that we are doing the things we say we are going to do. The coolest part of this is that many of these people are artists with other brands or even work for other drum companies. Almost universally, people are supportive because their love drums and music transcends competition. Compared to my day job in the medical device world which you would think would be like this but isn’t, hearing these comments from the other great brands restored a little of my faith in humanity.
Admittedly, I am the same way with gear. I loved going to the different booths and talking about the drums and was impressed with what the companies are producing. I don’t care if something cool is made by someone else, I am just glad it exists. So for me it’s just fun. Case in point. I had lunch with Kevin Jensen of Vic’s Drum Shop. Kevin was a tremendous help to me when I first started with this venture as I knew so little and I am forever indebted to him. (Vic’s obviously has a similar approach because they were just named Best Single Store Percussion Dealer in 2016 by the Music and Sound Retailer’s Association.) In any case, we were obviously talking drums at lunch and I kept referencing different stuff at the show I liked and different brands I admired and when I asked him questions, he was answering with Noble & Cooley in mind. I would be like, no no, did you see those trigger pads Mapex had? Or the modeling mics at Slate Digital? It was kind of leading to parallel conversations.
So he finally said, “John no offence, but do you mind if I say something? For the rest of us here, we are working. When you come here it’s like a vacation for you.” I laughed and said, dude it IS a vacation! It’s drums, not a stroke or an aortic resection or an amputation. THE DRUMS ARE COOL! Behind all the stress and all the work, that is still there. What is your favorite part of the job?” He said, “My favorite part is when parents of a young guy come in to buy him his first real high-end kit, because it is his first real instrument, which will give him the tools to develop into what he is capable of being. That is what my dad did for me and it was a pivotal moment in my life. I like to be a part of that experience for young artists.”
So, is this not cool? A Noble (Ha!) cause? To be part of a pivotal or potentially transformative moment in a young person’s life is an intimate and profound experience, just like music itself. That is cool. And it’s important. And it’s fun. You don’t need a vacation from that.
OK, not often anyway. So, NAMM 2018….